FORMER Hearts supremo Vladimir Romanov faces up to seven years in prison if successfully prosecuted over an allegation of “squandering” bank assets in Lithuania.
The Lithuanian police are looking for Romanov, who was reported to have left for Russia, over accusations he took an unspecified amount of money from Ukio Bankas, which he helped found.
The insolvent bank is owed £15million by Hearts and owns 30 per cent of the club’s shares.
The bank’s administrator recently dismissed bids for Hearts as unacceptable and warned he could seek to liquidate the club and use the bank’s security over Tynecastle to recoup some of the money.
Vilma Mazone, from the General Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Lithuania, said: “V Romanov has been recognised as a suspect and is suspected of having squandered high-value property belonging to the bank Ukio Bankas.
“We cannot state yet the exact value of the squandered property, as its amount has not been established yet.
“Laws of the Republic of Lithuania provide that a person who has committed the above mentioned criminal offence shall be punished by imprisonment for a term of up to seven years.
“As there were reasonable doubts regarding (the) whereabouts of V Romanov, on July 4 the prosecutor passed the decision to announce a search for him; on the same day that decision was forwarded to the police for execution.”
Romanov bought a majority stake in Hearts in 2005 but grew increasingly remote from the club and lost control when his personal finances collapsed over the last 12 months.
Another insolvent firm previously controlled by Romanov, UBIG, is owed more than £8million by Hearts and is the club’s major shareholder, but its debt is unsecured.
Administrators BDO last week revealed the club’s total debt was around £29.5 million.